Wonder is a great movie to see with the family at matinee price for a nice afternoon. It’s not great, but it surprised me. The story, based on a children’s novel of the same name, focuses around a ten-year-old boy named Auggie, played by rising child star Jacob Tremblay, who is starting middle school after being home-schooled all his life. His parents, played by Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, worry about how the kids will treat him, and naturally, they’re monsters.
Child performances are always a gamble, and when you have a movie filled with ten and eleven-year-olds, they’re not all going to be perfect. Jacob Tremblay is fantastic, as we all expected, but some of the other kids in the film are a bit rocky at times. That’s not unexpected, as most of them are probably fairly inexperienced, but Tremblay certainly outshines them all. Some of the supporting child actors are actually quite good, though, and they managed to really get under my skin. Auggie is viciously and relentlessly bullied, and it stirs up a desire in you to punch them all in the face. A few of them do get slugged, actually, and spoiler alert: it’s really satisfying.
Both Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson are also very good in the film. Roberts is the emotional support for Auggie and for the audience, and Wilson is the surprisingly effective comic relief. Both of their characters work well for what they were supposed to be, and they flesh out Auggie’s family as a believable, functioning one that give us as the audience a soft place to land after a long day at school.
The story is told in multiple chapters, each of them labeled with the name of a different character. This structure didn’t always work, and it was probably my biggest problem with the movie. Every section of the movie is supposedly told from the perspective of the corresponding character, but each one always seems to lead back to Auggie. That’s the point of the story, I get that, but I don’t understand the reasoning behind labeling the different chapters after the characters. I haven’t read the book, but I assume this is the structure that it uses to tell the story, and this is an example of poor translation from book to film. I actually did enjoy learning about a few different characters from their perspectives, but I feel like there may have been a better way to learn about them because the method the film uses is a bit choppy.
There are times when Wonder gets just a little melodramatic and it’s hard to feel the impact the emotion, but most times it really lands. As a movie, it’s funny, entertaining, and it’s one that a lot of people can learn a lot from. It’s a bit too long, and by the end I was touched, but I was finished with it. It was like eating a delicious meal, but taking a few bites to many after being full. The majority of the film is very solid, though, and I think families can have a great time watching it. It manages to bring the emotion, but it’s also a lighthearted and enjoyable watch with mostly good performances and an inspiring little story to be told.
— Camden McDonald